When a cat smells another cat’s ʙᴜᴛᴛ and we stop them, we are actually interrupting a healthy behavior. Why do cats sniff each other’s ʙᴜᴛᴛs? In doing so, you can get to know them better and improve their well-being.
Reasons cats sniff each other’s ʙᴜᴛᴛs
Before we explain the reasons why a cat will sniff another cat’s rear, it is important to know that cats have a different form of language than we do. Although they can emit vocalizations through meowing and other sounds, their main form of communication with other cats, animals and humans is through body language.
To establish a bond of mutual trust, understanding and friendship, we need to interpret their language. This means looking at their facial expressions, body posture, tail positions, behaviors and more. Through these signals, cats express their moods, emotions and perceptions.
Much of the so-called ‘strange’ behaviors we witness our cat exhiʙɪᴛɪɴɢ are actually completely natural. Although it may seem shameful or embarrᴀssing to us, cats will sniff each other’s ʙᴜᴛᴛs as a way to greet each other. Not only are they saying ʜᴇʟʟo, but cats are actually exchanging information to each other. They are revealing something about their health, whether they have been here before, whether they are s.ᴇ xually active and much more.
The social life of felines does not obey or determine according to the same codes that people use to interact in their day-to-day lives. We will not see two kittens shaking hands, exchanging words, hugging or kissing to greet each other. The language and communication of cats does not include this type of display of affection or cordiality.
How cats exchange this information is due to their ᴀɴᴀʟ sacs. These are glands which are located beside the ᴀɴᴜs, similar to a dog’s ᴀɴᴀʟ glands. They secrete a substance which has a foul odor in large quantities, but generally cannot be smelled by us. Since a cat’s sense of smell is much more acute than our own, they can recognize hormones and non-volatile chemicals in the secretion which provides them the information about the other cat.
Why do cats open their mouths when they smell a ʙᴜᴛᴛ?
You may have also noticed that cats open their mouths when smelling something. They may be catching a scent on the air or smelling some food. A cat’s mouth may also open when sniffing another cat’s ᴀɴᴀʟ sacs. This is because cat’s have something called the Jacobson’s organ, also known as the vomeronasal organ. It is located between their mouth and nose on the vomer ʙᴏɴᴇ.
All the functions of Jacobson’s organ are not fully known. However, we do know that it is partially responsible for receiving the stimuli provided by scents. It plays a key role in ʜᴜɴᴛing, reproduction and social interaction of cats.
When a cat opens their mouth when they are smelling or breathing deeply, they are allowing scents better access to the Jacobson’s organ. This action is known as the flehmen response. It creates a pumping mechanism which allows them to better perceive the smell, something very important with faint scents. Essentially, opening their mouths is a way to enhance their smelling ability. When they do this and sniff a cat’s ʙᴜᴛᴛ, they are really digging for data.
However, it is important to note that a cat should not be doing this all the time. If a cat regularly has their mouth open, it is possible they have something wrong. This is particularly the case if it is accompanied by excessive drooling. The problem can be related to ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛion, obesity or even respiratory failure. Go to a veterinarian if the cat is doing this too often.
Why do males cats smell female cat’s ʙᴜᴛᴛs?
Firstly, it is important to know that a male or female cat will sniff each other’s ᴀɴᴀʟ glands to receive the data we spoke about above. This will happen whether or not the animals have been sᴛᴇʀɪʟɪᴢᴇᴅ. However, for cats which have not been ɴᴇᴜᴛᴇʀᴇᴅ or sᴘᴀʏᴇᴅ, smelling a cat of the other s.ᴇ x’s ʙᴜᴛᴛ may also be related to ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ.
Secretions from the ᴀɴᴀʟ glands include s.ᴇ x hormones which let the male know the female is in heat. The female will even rub her ᴀɴᴜs on the ground and objects to attract males for ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ. Females will also smell a male’s ᴀɴᴜs if they are interested. However, if a male cat is not ɴᴇᴜᴛᴇʀᴇᴅ, they will likely be more eager to pursue the female. The female will put herself in a receptive position.